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And What You Can Do To Help


An example of an MS-13 tattoo.
An example of an MS-13 tattoo.

They've severed the fingers of their rivals with machetes...brutally murdered suspected informants, including a 17-year-old pregnant federal witness...attacked and threatened law enforcement officers...committed a string of rapes, assaults, break-ins, auto thefts, extortions, and frauds across the U.S....gotten involved in everything from drug and firearms trafficking to prostitution and money laundering...and are sowing violence and discord not just here in the U.S. but around the world.

Remind you of mobsters? Actually, this disturbing résumé of crime and violence belongs to MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, a fast-growing, violent, and increasingly mobile street gang that’s terrorizing communities in 33 states and the District of Columbia.

MS-13, which started in Los Angeles in the late 1980s, has an estimated 8,000-10,000 members nationwide, mostly Salvadoran nationals or first generation Salvadoran Americans but also including Hondurans, Guatemalans, Mexicans, and other Central and South American immigrants. Members often wear clothing or sport tattoos incorporating MS-13 or the number 13.

What are we doing to stop MS-13? Quite a bit:

... In December 2004, we launched a multi-agency MS-13 National Gang Task Force—the first of its kind—focused specifically on dismantling MS-13 by increasing and speeding the flow of information and intelligence, coordinating investigations, and helping local and state law enforcement more easily identify the gang in their areas.

.... We're specifically reaching out to our international partners in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico to share intelligence and begin a coordinated campaign to dismantle MS-13. We've begun sharing information on nearly a daily basis, and we have an agent on the ground in San Salvador helping local authorities investigate gangs.

.... In a related effort, we've established a National Gang Intelligence Center to better coordinate and share intelligence on MS-13 and other major gangs.

What can you do to help?

  • Get educated on gangs. A good place to start is the 2005 National Gang Threat Assessment, which outlines major gangs by region and how communities can help stop them.
  • Be proactive when it comes to your children. Take a few minutes to look at A Parent's Quick Reference Card: Recognizing and Preventing Gang Involvement (pdf) for helpful tips and suggestions.
  • If you know of any gang "hang outs"—which typically include shopping malls, night clubs, vacant buildings, and specific street corners—or have any other information on MS-13 that might be useful to law enforcement, contact your local FBI office, your local police, or our National Gang Task Force at (202) 324-5341.

For more details on MS-13, its potential connections to terrorists, and our overall anti-gang strategy, see Assistant Director Chris Swecker's testimony of 4/20/05.